Mayor Adams restores $500 million for education, leaves open-ended questions about free child care in NYC

Mayor Eric Adams said he is has a “glass half-full” outlook on the tentative state budget deal Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday. Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

After a tumultuous back-and-forth between City Hall and the council over budget cuts this year, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday new funding for education programs facing the chopping block — although the future of Pre-K and 3-K still remains unclear.

Just three weeks after the NYC Council found more than $6 billion in additional funding that some say could be used to reverse Adams’ slew of cuts, the mayor said during a press conference at P.S. 34 in the East Village that he will protect key education programs with $514 million in restored funding from the city and state. Most of the funding will go toward mental health care, career readiness and literacy programs for public schools.

Although most of the programs will be baselined with recurring dollars, 3-K is another story. This program will only be funded for a year, city officials said, with its future far from secure.  

“We hit a fiscal cliff,” Adams said in explaining the initial cuts. “There were a series of programs and initiatives that were permanent in nature with temporary dollars.”

The mayor then listed economic challenges that put a dent in the city’s budget and then praised his administration for its management. 

“You add settling long-standing union contracts, you add the uncertainty of our economic turnaround, you add 180,000 migrant and asylum seekers without the money coming from the federal level like it’s supposed to,” he said. “We looked at this fiscal crisis and we managed it in the appropriate way with our partners in the City Council.”

Free Child Care in NYC: Where does it stand now?

Funding for universal Pre-K and 3-K has been an ongoing point of contention among the mayor, council members and parents. 

Advocates and the City Council have been asking for a restoration of $170 million to allow access to free child-care seats, as well as funding for 4,000 full-day and full-year 3-K and Pre-K seats, city wide. 

With the exception of $5 million that Adams restored today for Pre-K and 3-K enrollment, it is unclear right now whether there will be the funds needed for the other demands to be met. 

Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez (D-Brooklyn-Queens) called the mayor’s announcement today “an important step” for education but added that she still has concerns about the future of the programs. 

“The mayor still has a long way to go to ensure universal 3-K and UPK, equitable access for every family in need, proper outreach to eligible recipients, and a mechanism to address systemic issues such as timely payments to providers with fairness.”

With New York parents feeling so much uncertainty about the city’s child-care programs, Gutierrez and other City Council members and stakeholders formed the New Parents Caucus this week, which advocates for universal childcare. The group wants support for more full-day and full-year seats in the programs, as well as the reinstatement of outreach efforts so parents know free childcare is available. 

“Even as we recognize the substantial victory of these restorations, we must also recognize how the mayor’s budget games have cultivated an atmosphere of uncertainty and instilled fear among numerous families, providers, teachers, and public servants regarding their futures,” Gutierrez added.

Rebecca Bailin, executive director of New Yorkers United for Child Care, said she is concerned about the deep holes in the mayor’s announcement today, but applauded the work of parents and the City Council advocating for the cause. 

“Mayor Adams’ announcement today is a testament to the influence of parents organizing as well as the advocacy from the City Council,” Bailin said. “While the mayor’s decision to reverse some funding cuts is a step in the right direction, it falls entirely short of the investment and infrastructure needed to fund a truly universal 3-K and Pre-K as so many parents in New York City thought they could rely on.”